1st Fleet divisions find buyers

Australian Container Freight Services and Metcash take over failed 1st Fleet divisions

1st Fleet divisions find buyers
1st Fleet divisions find buyers

By Brad Gardner | May 7, 2012

The sell-off of 1st Fleet is underway, with Australian Container Freight Services (ACFS) and Metcash taking over operations in Sydney and Queensland.

deVries Tayeh, the administrator of 1st Fleet, struck an early morning deal today with ACFS for it to take over the Sydney-based container division of the failed trucking business, which shut its doors late Wednesday.

The accountancy firm also reached an understanding with wholesale distributor Metcash to operate 1st Fleet’s C-Store division near Brisbane.

ACFS Managing Director Arthur Tzaneros worked with the administrator and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) through last night and early this morning, signing a deal at 2am in a move that saves around 40 former 1st Fleet workers from the unemployment line.

Tzaneros says ACFS has effectively taken control of the operation and assets of 1st Fleet’s business at Milperra, running the place under a deal of licence with the administrator while legal documents are finalised.

"It’s anything to do with the container division of 1st Fleet," Tzaneros tells SupplyChain Review's sister trucking title ATN.

"[It’s] roughly 24 trucks and quite a number of additional subbies, but we’re probably going to employ another 10 to 15 subbies and there’s a lot more trailers. I think there’s 40 to 50 trailers, but I haven’t got a certain number on that yet.

"We managed to keep on all the administration staff and the majority of all the transport workers."

Tzaneros says "it took a lot of pushing" to get the deal over the line, with ACFS adamant a deal had to be done by today.

"At the end of the day if it went past today I wasn’t interested because you just would have lost the clients and it would have been very difficult."

He says 1st Fleet’s former customers expressed confidence in ACFS taking over and he expects them to stay on. The former 1st Fleet employees began working from 6am today and Tzaneros says the trucks will be rebadged in the next week.

Metcash has taken over a smaller slice of the business, signing an agreement that keeps about 18 truck drivers working.

Metcash and deVries Tayeh reached a deal hours after 1st Fleet shut down for it to take over the C-Store operation at 1st Fleet’s Crestmead depot.

Drivers were already delivering for Metcash when 1st Fleet was running, with the Crestmead operation focused purely on supplying goods to independent grocers such as IGA.

TWU organiser Troy Fernandez says workers arrived at the depot on the morning of May 3 to be told they no longer worked for 1st Fleet and that Metcash would now be paying them.

Fernandez says the company had to act quickly to make sure it didn’t lose clients.

"It was too valuable for them [Metcash] to lose. They could not stop the supply of the goods to all those tiny suppliers because for them they would just go over to their competitor and that would be really quite bad business for them," he says.

"Metcash were just protecting their business from what I understand."

He says the 18 trucks previously under the ownership of 1st Fleet shifted to Metcash.

Meanwhile, deVries Tayeh says it is continuing negotiations to find a buyer for 1st Fleet’s Express and Line Haulage divisions.

"We remain positive for an outcome that will assist employees," it says in a statement.

In a message to former 1st Fleet employees, the firm thanked them for their support and patience.

"We are working with representatives from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) with the view to ensuring you receive the full amount of your entitlements at the earliest time. At this stage we cannot give you a firm timeframe. For updates feel free to contact your TWU delegate or us," it says.

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